ING Won't Give Me My Dead Husband's Money (Updated)

Cathy’s husband died about a year ago, and she recently discovered he had a secret CD account with ING that he was using to save up for a surprise vacation. For no apparent reason, the bank is freezing her out of the $2,000 in the account. She says it will cost much of than that in lawyer’s fees to try to get the money, but she’s fighting anyway.

She writes:

He did give me all the info on it – passwords, account number, amount, etc. After I had regrouped a bit and was able to start sorting through things following his death, I contacted ING. They told me I would have to wait until probate to be able to do anything, which I understood. Now comes the continuing and frustrating part.

After finally getting through probate, I contacted ING again. I was given a list of things to fax to them (will, probate documents, letter of instruction, death certificate) and was assured that it would all be resolved when these were received. I faxed everything in (including Muniment of Title) on Aug. 3. After hearing nothing for over two weeks, I called again. Let me also state that every single time I called I had to explain the entire situation again – sorta understandable, but then each time I was transferred up the pecking list I had to go through it again and again and again. Complete with passwords, account numbers, SS# and on and on sometimes 3 or 4 times per phone call. Reiterating that my husband was dead each time – it got a little painful.

On this particular phone call, I was told that I needed a “Letter of Testimentary” – first I’d heard of such a thing. Upon checking, I discovered that this is unavailable in the state of Texas when the deceased has a will. Obviously, he did. Call ING again – they tell me they have to have this regardless of the laws of the state I live in and they do business in because their legal department wants it.

I have had more than one phone call since and finally gave it to my attorney to try to resolve this. One of their representatives openly stated that “we dropped the ball on this one”. Still, even after my attorney faxed in his copy of probate papers which includes Muniment of Title, I haven’t got this cleared up. Do they want a pint of blood and my first born??

It is going to end up costing me more in lawyer’s fees to get this CD closed then the $2000 that is in it. Yep, that’s right – that’s all the money involved. The will states I am sole beneficiary and executor, probate states I am responsible for all debts, assets and property in lots of legal terms, Both items are filed and approved by the court and ING apparently needs this little bit of money more than I do. Compared to this, BofA and ATT are coming out smelling like roses.

At this point, I have just asked my attorney to do what he can to get whatever part of the money back from ING he can pry out of them. If most of the $2,000 goes to him for his trouble then I guess so be it. Goes without saying that I for one will never never never trust them with a dime in the future. And BTW- yes, DH should have put my name on the stupid thing in the first place but as time ran short it never crossed our minds the will/probate wouldn’t be enough for these people. It has been more than sufficient for everything else. Maybe my difficulties will help someone else avoid something similar in the future.

If you use ING or an off-shore online bank, do you take any measures to safeguard your funds?

UPDATE: Cathy said ING had a change of heart:

I emailed last week about the trouble I was having with ING releasing my late husband’s CD to me. I just wanted to let you know that they have finally released the funds and are sending me a check, closing the account.


Edit Your Comment

  1. smo0 says:

    Can she sue for any fees incurred to go through this process? I would.

    • danmac says:

      In this case, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to take them to court and sue them for the principle plus two or three times the principle in punitive damages.

      • mikeP says:

        A small claims court would probably be the way to go. Should be pretty quick, easy, and NOT require an expensive lawyer to get her money.

        • MrEvil says:

          and if ING wants to be able to do business in the state of Texas, odds are they have a registered agent (that is, a designated party authorized to accept a court summons located within the state.). Makes it very easy to sue, but it’ll cost probably $100 depending on county.

    • Sammich says:

      Given the apparent disregard for local law, she might have a case. How much of a case depends on if what they’re requiring simply goes above and beyond what is required by law or if it actually conflicts. Even if it’s just “above and beyond”, she still might be able to make a case that the requirement involves undue effort and cost on her part.

  2. dolemite says:

    I’d hope she can sue for legal fees too.

    Just interesting how banks/creditors will send you a bill and expect it to be paid in 2 weeks, but if you send them a request for your own money, they will get to it whenever they want, or maybe not at all.

  3. BeerFox says:

    Once again, a massive financial institution manages to give the impression that they have no process in place to handle the death of a customer. Strange how the businesses that stand to benefit the most from drowning the bereaved in a quicksand of red tape are the ones who have just NEVER heard of this ‘death’ thing you speak of.

    • lettucefactory says:

      Seriously. +1.

    • Hoss says:

      Banks fired all the senior people a few years ago. They now have skeleton crews of 20 somethings, or phone banks in India

    • Kitten Mittens says:

      That or they did exactly as they should have under the laws of Texas and the OP is dealing with an incompetent attorney. Probably one that doesn’t specialize in probate but claims to do “everything.”

  4. andyg8180 says:

    If ING admitteed to dropping the ball, and you did your part, ie showed all legal documents needed to retrieve the funds, i would most definitely head to small claims court for the cost of the fees and mental anguish… You may end up recieving the cost of the fees only, but jeezus, what a pain…

    • qbubbles says:

      I’m willing to get she gets the mental anguish. It has to be frustratingly painful to have to repeat over and over again that the person you love/d has died.

    • VeganPixels says:

      I read this as the probate attorney dropped the ball. In which case, this one’s on them.

      • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

        How do you read this as “probate attorney dropped the ball”, if they’re requesting a legal document which doesn’t exist in her state for people who leave a will?

        • Kitten Mittens says:

          Except that document does very much exist. Only the attorney doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.

          • Mythandros says:

            It says pretty clearly that the document exists, but is not available/in use in her state.

            I’m not an american, but if you’re dealing with a bank, doesn’t that bank have to primarily go by state law, not their own policies?

            Sue sue sue.

            • Kitten Mittens says:

              It may not be in use, but it is available in Texas and is the only option unless they have a small estates statute. The Minument of Title only relates to real estate. The issue is with her attorney.

              So, if they aren’t using the available legal remedies, then I’m not sure how you or the OP think ING is to blame. ING could disburse these funds to the wife, then find out he left everything in his will to his mistress. Then ING is getting sued by her… That has happened enough (believe me, I see it) that ING and all other banks have to have policies that require letters testamentary.

              • selianth says:

                She said that she faxed them his will, so they can see that the money wasn’t left to his mistress. And the article says that the Letter of Testimentary isn’t available in Texas *when the deceased already had a will*, which her husband did. It sounds like you know something we all don’t regarding this document, but it seemed pretty clear to me in the article.

                • selianth says:

                  Okay, well, I just saw the links you posted below. My bad for not reading the entire thread first. Never mind.

  5. rocklob says:

    Since the amount is only $2000, is this a situation where small claims court would apply? That would cut the legal fees drastically and I bet ING wouldn’t even show up to contest it.

  6. Hoss says:

    My wife and I don’t have our joint names on anything — not real estate, stock accounts, bank accounts, not anything. Why is that important, a marriage is a marriage. It feels like she should have told ING that she was having difficulty with them, and could they please transfer to the dept that deals with asset transfers after death. They admitted they erred.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      probably a good idea in some ways. considering the stories i’ve read about people who lost a loved one and all the joint assets were frozen, i’d want to make sure to have at least one account for each person in their own name so no one gets completely cut off from funds during red tape untangling

    • Tom Foolery says:

      It depends on how well you plan, i guess. I know it’s a damned shame when one spouse dies and the other isn’t on the mortgage…and they fall behind, and i have to deny them for a loan modification and they lose the house too.

  7. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I never trust banks who are named after a common ending for action verbs.

  8. lettucefactory says:

    “Let me also state that every single time I called I had to explain the entire situation again – sorta understandable, but then each time I was transferred up the pecking list I had to go through it again and again and again. “

    Ugh. I really, really, really loathe that. While I generally applaud companies who take security seriously, enough is enough. If you are passed up the chain from one employee to another, why in the WORLD is Employee A’s statement that you have passed the security screening not sufficient to prevent you from being screened again by Employee B? Simply transferring a caller to a different extension does not change that caller’s frigging identity. Of course, this implies proactive behavior on the part of Employee A – not just dumping you on a new extension, but speaking with Employee B and explaining the situation before passing you off.

    And I can only imagine how upsetting it would be if you’re doing it in response to a death. Nobody wants to say, “my husband died” eighteen times in a row for no good reason.

    • ChoralScholar says:

      When I talk to Customer Service on repeated issues, I usually say “I’d like you to read the notes on my account before I say anything else.”

      In addition, if I’ve come to some sort of conclusion, I say “I’d like you to be sure and put that in the notes of my account, so I don’t have to explain it again.”

    • dragonfire81 says:

      Lack of notes is often the main culprit. The goal at call centers is to get you off the line as fast as possible, often that means a lack of notes and a cold transfer to someone else. Average call time/Average handle time is KING at a Call center, they don’t even really care about much else.

      Another problem (and I say this as a former center rep myself) is that sometimes the notes in the account completely disagree with or run entirely counter with the story I get from you. In that instance, I am supposed to accept the notes as truth, not what you tell me.

  9. oldwiz65 says:

    My goodness, people actually expecting a big bank to try to help them? Everyone knows that big banks hate customers and do everything they can to screw customers.

    • Mythandros says:

      It’s not really anything to do with the banks.. it’s how they train their CS agents… and I have to say that having the customer explain the situation AGAIN and AGAIN and again is very poor training.

      Here, when someone escalates we put them on hold and EXPLAIN the situation to the next person up the chain.. which is how it is supposed to be done. At the very least.
      If the agent does their job PROPERLY, then the account will also be very thoroughly noted before the escalation is actually passed up.

      All this is assuming the agent is competent, has the right attitude for the job and is trained properly. Any one of those 3 traits failing and customer service fails.

      THIS is how *I* was trained. Besides, I take pride in my work. If you’re going to do something, why do it less than 100%?

      My two cents.

  10. evnmorlo says:

    If she had the passwords, why not just transfer the money out?

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      Because once they found out her husband passed away, they froze the account. No transfer possible. That, in itself, is fairly standard. Never letting it be unfrozen, even when the proper documentation is presented, is not.

    • coffeeculture says:

      i think legally once the account holder dies, you “can’t” do that.

      Granted, if this happened to me…I would have just transferred it out soon after the death and hope no one asks questions. Then again, I wasn’t the one who lost their spouse, I can see how one would have a million other things going through their head.

  11. tasselhoff76 says:

    I happen to handle probate proceedings but not in Texas. However, it sounds like the bank is asking for her to obtain an order directing the distribution of the funds or to probate her late husband’s estate and have letters of testamentary issued in her name, so that she may act on behalf of the estate. This would be the case if the account was not joint or was not payable on death to her. As to Texas not having letters of testamentary, s simple Google search would seem to indicate this is false – for example,

    • tasselhoff76 says:

      Sorry, I hit submit too soon. That was not to say that OP is wrong or that her attorney is wrong. It’s just that probably what the bank is looking for. Often, you have to get to someone that will work with the legal department to make things happen. Typically, banks are the worst institutions to deal with in probate. As bad as ING sounds here, E-Trade is far worse.

  12. Thyme for an edit button says:

    Yikes, what a nightmare. I have an account with ING and would not want my loved ones to go through this. Maybe time to shop around for something different. I’ve been thinking of switching to USAA.

    • twiggr says:

      If you are eligible by all means move to USAA. You will be overwhelmed with satisfaction. I started with ING in 2002. Over the past two years they have sunk VERY low in customer service and outright lying to me. Actually the trouble started when they picked up Net Bank.

  13. Kitten Mittens says:

    Start by getting a new lawyer.

    Minument of title only deals with real property. Texas DOES issues letters testamentary (no “of”). See Probate Code of Texas, Chapter 5, Section 74.

    Further, you should look at the Texas code (with a competent attorney) to see if they have a small estates statute that allows accounts smaller than $X (usually $10,000) to be closed for a decedent without the need for probate. If so, have said competent attorney draft a letter to the someone with some authority at the bank requesting they close said account.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      +1. You need a new lawyer, one who understands estates. The letter is like certification by the state that you can act on behalf of the estate of the deceased. Also, if there was no will, it may be called a Letter of Administration, but it serves exactly the same purpose as a Letter Testamentary (as in “last will and TESTAMENT”).

  14. madtube says:

    I was in a similar situation. A year and a half ago, I was almost killed in a motorcycle accident. I am also responsible for all our finances. During my recovery, it was revealed to me what would have happened to all our money if I had been killed. Essentially, my life would have been left with very little liquid assets in her name with the bulk in my banks. That had to change. My wife and I overhauled our entire financial situation and prepared for that scenario or others worse. Best decision we made regarding money. We dropped BoA for USAA, put both of us on my ING account and made TD Bank our brick and mortar. Expect the best and prepare for the worst.

    • econobiker says:

      +1 on sorting your situation out.

      I saw this up front and personal years ago when a friend of the family died leaving his wife with zero access to their accounts until after probate, etc. My father, who looked like the friend, had to go to the bank with the wife to withdraw a bunch load of money via a check signed by her with her husband’s signature before the accounts were frozen for funeral and living expenses.

  15. mikebw says:

    I just sent an email to ING – detailing how as a long time customer I believe this situation is unacceptable and how ING’s image is being seriously damaged by the way they are handling this.

    • Kitten Mittens says:

      Except it isn’t ING’s fault for requiring the wife of a dead client to follow the laws of Texas. The OP’s lawyer doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing.

      What if they had a pending divorce and the dead husband’s will directed everything to his children or his siblings? That’s why letters testamentary are required by the bank.

  16. dush says:

    Wow, I almost opened a savings account with them.
    Good to know never to use ING!

  17. jim says:

    if she had the passwords she should have just moved all the money out without notifying them. would have been much simpler.

  18. ThunderRoad says:

    Small claims for the attorney fees, and contact local media.

  19. ames says:

    Your lawyer is wrong. Call the local probate court directly and get the forms you need to complete for your Letters Testamentary. You may be able to do it yourself without the lawyer’s input at all.

    Man, I hope the OP reads these comments, because she is being lead astray.

  20. Lucky225 says:

    Oh no, no, no… that’s just wrong consumerist, you know there’s a bigger story from me and others about ING’s shady account opening practices and you print this crap.. ugh.

  21. benh999 says:

    Idiot lawyer. A good lawyer would handle this very easily. It isn’t that ING has no process for this, it is that someone ill-informed calling the 1-800 customer service number is not part of it.

  22. scoosdad says:

    ING is just a pain in the ass when it comes to things like this.

    When I opened my ING savings account a few years ago, I put a trusted family member’s name on it to try to avoid situations like this. The family member also happens to have an ING account of her own.

    Now whenever that family member logs into her own ING account, ING keeps trying to link my account to her account even though she doesn’t want such direct access. She knows where to find my account number and login information in case something happens to me, and that’s all we needed.

  23. H3ion says:

    Letters Testamentary is evidence from the probate court that the person to whom they are issued is authorized to speak for the estate. If there’s no will, they’re called Letters of Administration. If the OP opened a probate, the probate court should have issued these letters and the OP can always ask for and receive additional copies. it’s usually one side of one piece of paper with a court seal on the original copies.

  24. Felrond says:

    Question: How does ING, or any bank, know someone is deceased? Are they notified by some agency at which time the assets them become frozen or something? With ING, in particular, everything is done on-line so couldn’t she just liquidate the account on her computer?

  25. stevenpdx says:

    Get a new lawyer.

    You need, and can get (even in Texas) a Letter Testamentary.

    ING have done nothing wrong in this case.

  26. kaleberg says:

    Having handled all too many estates I am not at all surprised that you need letters testamentary or letters of administration. These date back to English common law, so they are available in every state, even Texas, though they may call them something else. Be advised that these letters usually have to be fresh. My father died 20 years ago, but I was able to get a set issued in barely a week to deal with some unclaimed property of his.

    Who handled your probate? Surely they had some clue.

  27. sax5084 says:

    Wait a couple years, get it out of escheat.

  28. The Lone Gunman says:

    Everyone who has stated that she needs a new attorney is correct. Her current one dropped the ball big time by not automatically obtaining several copies of Letters Testamentary as a matter of course.

    I’ve gone through two probates here in Texas where there were wills involved, and Letters Testamentary were drawn up in each case to allow me to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

    Oh–and why more than one? Some places only accept an original copy for their records, while others accept a photocopy and give the original back to you.

  29. Gorbachev says:

    If you had the username and password of the acct, why didn’t you just wire the money to yourself?

  30. Kat says:

    3 words. Payable On Death. Add one to all your accounts.

  31. Max5695 says:

    ING is a huge and tough bureaucracy to navigate. ING Direct USA is going to be sold by ING before 2013. This was a condition of ING’s bailout by the Dutch government. ING took over 10 Billion Euros in bailout money. That’s over $13 billion dollars in Dutch taxpayer money.